Wednesday is Prince spaghetti night, a common event distinguished by easy dishes, gluttonous portions, and simple thoughts. Nancy invaded my Prince spaghetti night by appearing in my kitchen, holding my 6 month-old daughter in her arms, and delivering me the nightmare kōan: “are babies capable of flirting?” After delivering this incendiary query, she handed back my smiling child and left with my wife to dine and to drink delicious cocktails elsewhere, so that I would have ample time to ponder this riddle in as close to meditative silence as one can get when one lives with a 6 month-old daughter with powerful lungs and a 4 year-old dog who sits in a chair by the window and refuses to allow people to walk by the house without hearing his disapproval.
Merriam-Webster says the following about flirt:
Pronunciation: \ˈflərt\. Function: verb. Etymology: origin unknown (unknown!? always a bad sign!). Date of origin: 1580.
Flirt is an intransitive verb with the following definitions:
1: to move erratically: to flit.
2a: to behave amorously without serious intent. 2b: to show superficial or casual interest or liking (flirted with the idea) ; also : experiment (a novelist flirting with poetry).
3: to come close to reaching or experiencing something —used with (flirting with disaster) (the temperature flirted with 100°).
Let’s tackle the easy ones first. Does Abigail “move erratically?” I prefer to describe my daughter’s movements as magical grace, but to the objective observer watching her flip awkwardly from stomach to back and from back to stomach, or to anyone with the luck to see Abby’s “armless” crawl across the bed sheet, it’s probably safe to describe her movements as erratic.
Definition 2a is the one everyone’s waiting for, so let’s hold off on that one for now. It’s better to eliminate the shorter-toothed pack before sneaking up on the alpha wolf.
Does Abigail “show superficial or casual interest or liking (flirted with the idea)”, or does she “experiment (a novelist flirting with poetry)?” Abigail does show casual interest in our plastic neglectacenter playarea (sorry, Lindsey, I know that the term “neglectacenter” is shamelessly stolen from you, but at least you get an inline note! That’s no small consequence when the note appears on a blog of Moorezilla’s stature, weight, and cultural influence!), Abigail does show casual interest in our television (whether it’s on or not), and Abigail does show casual interest in dustbunnies of a particular size and resemblance to actual woodland creatures. Furthermore, Abigail does not merely “experiment” with poetry; she speaks ONLY in poetry. Everything she says rhymes with “ew” or “ooo” or “ahh.” I actually tried to follow her language rules for an entire day once, and let me assure you that it is no small feat. Used in the wrong setting, strict adherence to the baby vernacular and grammar can cost you your job and/or your freedom!
Does Abby ever “come close to reaching or experiencing something,” or does she “flirt… with disaster?” I’m going to have to say, “yes” to this question as well. Our changing table is nosebleed high and precariously narrow, yet Abby, without fail, tries to roll over and off it during each and every diaper change. We have a picture of a cow in Abby’s crib (we believe that animal recognition skills are as, if not more, important than reading skills for children), and Abby repeatedly head butts the cow in the nose. The closest I’ve been to a cow is eating a rare steak, but I imagine that head butting a cow in the nose is at least a cousin of “flirting with disaster.” I will hang a picture of a bull in the crib this week; if she head butts a bull, I think we can safely check this definition completely off.
So this brings us back to 2a: “to behave amorously without serious intent.” Does my daughter, or more accurately, my nephew, Max, (since he is the real spur for this important investigation) hold the potential to behave amorously without serious intent? Max definitely behaves amorously. I doubt anyone would question his amorousness, so the matter hangs on his seriousness of intent. What does Max actually intend when he behaves amorously and is he really serious about it? Is he always blindly seeking milk, or does he… nay… CAN he on occasion, merely flash a smile or a wink for “intentless” purposes?
I can’t ask him. Even if he would answer me, I find awkward conversations… well.. awkward, and I have to imagine that there’s a chance that he would too. Can I really risk becoming the “weird” uncle while trying to settle someone else’s workplace bet? I don’t think so.
Still… there must be a way to at least ballpark Max’s potential for acting amorously without intent. Remember, I don’t really need to prove that Max is flirting; I only need to prove that Max can flirt. For this, we need to roll out our favorite resident psychiatrist (and coke addict!) Dr. Freud! Let’s see what the crazy cigar smoking cat has to say about baby flirting, shall we?
“From the moment of birth the infant is driven in his amorous actions by the desire for bodily/sexual pleasure, where this is seen by Freud in almost mechanical terms as the desire to release mental energy. Initially, infants gain such release, and derive such pleasure, through the act of sucking or of imitating sucking, and Freud accordingly terms this the ‘oral’ stage of development. Infants will certainly behave in this manner without sexual [that’s serious!] intent (emphasis mine!) on occasion, but the desire for sexual pleasure exists in infants.”
Whoa… that seals it, and that’s a lot more than I wanted to know! If Freud says babies can act amorously with or without serious intent, that’s good enough for me; now that I know, I’m going to start forgetting this as soon as I can. For the record, though, with a score of 3.75 out of 4 on the truthmeter, babies are hereby declared capable of flirting as long as flirting is used as an intransitive verb.
Go get em, Max, you potentially amorous without serious intention son of a gun! Abby, go to your room and stay there until you’re 25.